Indonesia law: Vancouver travellers and the Bali sex ban

Some local travelers are rethinking plans.

One of the world’s most popular travel destinations has come under the global microscope following the announcement of new laws banning sex outside of marriage.

Bali, Indonesia is the list for a wide spectrum of globetrotters, from honeymooners to sun worshipers to new-age spiritualists to college-aged partiers and just about everyone in between – and that’s just scratching the surface.

For many travelers, the South Asian oasis offers a rare blend of culture, natural beauty, high-end resorts, low-cost accommodations and a spiritual gravity that few other places command. People from all over the world travel to the tropical province to live, work, and vacation; some stay for a spell, and others fall in love with its paradisaical charm and never leave.

But the recent announcement regarding its laws has dampened the sunny aspirations of many travelers – especially those traveling solo or with a partner to whom they are not married.

On December 6, the Indonesian government approved a new criminal code that bans everything from sex outside of marriage to cohabitation before marriage to criticism of the government.

The announcement sent shock waves across Indonesia and around the world, raising concerns about civil rights and religious extremism in the country with the world’s fourth-highest population.

According to a local expert, however, the latest announcement does not mark such a significant departure from current laws as it seems.

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Not only will the laws not come into force for several years – meaning there is plenty of time to change them – but University of British Columbia (UBC) history professor Dr. sexual and romantic life of people.

“There are already laws that allow the police to raid people’s homes if they suspect there is any illegal sexual activity going on,” he said. Vancouver Is Awesomeadding that this typically affects places where LGBTQAI2S+ people live.

But some provinces are decidedly conservative, while others, such as tourism mecca Bali, attract visitors for their more relaxed attitude, Roosa added.

“Indonesia is much more democratic than most other countries in Southeast Asia. And these laws can be brought before the Constitutional Court, which can deem them unconstitutional,” noted the professor, who has written extensively on Indonesian politics.

Roosa also does not believe that this law is applied equally to tourists and residents – and the Indonesian consulate in Vancouver shares this sentiment.

How the law of Indonesia could affect the tourism of Canada and the world

While the law will technically apply to both foreigners and Indonesians, Prakoso Wicaksono, a spokesman for the Indonesian consulate in Vancouver, emphasized that the new law is “to protect the institution of marriage based on Indonesian values” and is not intended to to target tourism. .

When asked if couples need to prove they are married before visiting Indonesia, Wicaksono expects the tourist experience will be largely the same and that the tourism sector is not obliged to “confirm or verify” status.

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That said, the new laws “would encourage single people to get married before having premarital sex,” he told VIA

The law can also only be reported by an immediate family member (legitimate parents/spouse/children) without other parties having the right to do so. As such, it makes the sexual activity of tourists quite difficult, if not impossible, to report.

But if a tourist has sexual relations with an Indonesian citizen, this can pose a potential issue – and there is a penalty for this crime.

The penalty for this crime, if found guilty, is six months to one year in prison or a fine of 10 million rupiah ($872 CAD).

The new Criminal Code will enter into force three years after its ratification to “give time to the people to have a correct and clear understanding of the new law.”

Wicaksono added that “the government of Indonesia still protects the privacy of investors and foreign tourists who invest in and travel to Indonesia. The government of Indonesia will continue to guarantee people’s privacy without diminishing Indonesian values.”

Some tourists may still decide to go elsewhere

John Korenic, an aviation consultant and adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, told VIA that he is concerned about the impact on tourism that the new laws will have.

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“I believe that this will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the inbound Indonesia tourism industry. In 2019, there were 16.1 million tourists entering Indonesia, a significant part in Bali,” he said. “The Canadians seem to have accounted for only 103,000. Perhaps not surprisingly given the distance and the fact that there is no non-stop service from anywhere in Canada to Indonesia. So we represent a relatively small segment for Indonesian tourism.

“However, Australia represented the fourth largest segment of tourists with 1.4 million. So I expect a potential loss of Australian tourists to have a significant impact on Indonesia.”

When it comes to how the law is interpreted, Korenic expressed concern about the discretion that law enforcement can have. Tourists can travel to other attractive options in the region to avoid potential misunderstandings.

“A family member of mine is traveling to Singapore in January and is planning a side trip to Indonesia (Bintan). With this announcement, she is seriously considering changing her plans and may spend more time in Singapore or alternatively stay at a nearby resort in Malaysia” , he noted.

Canadians may decide to visit other hotspots, such as Thailand or Vietnam, especially since Air Canada just introduced a new direct option to Bangkok.


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